8-30-93, 8:45 p.m.
Everyone wants to know.
What are the big surprises going to be when Marvin Lewis cuts his first roster to 53 players Sunday in moves that should be announced at his 3 p.m. news conference, an hour before the NFL's Cutdown Hour?
Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham has been saying for a couple of weeks that he expects some surprises that will show his team that he wants a certain type of player.
Does Lewis light his own fireworks on the river before the real ones go off about six hours later Sunday night? Are first day draft picks like Reinard Wilson, Lamont Thompson, Sean Brewer, and Steve Foley possibilities to join another first day pick, wide receiver Ron Dugans, as Cutdown casualties?
Tough to read. For one thing, Lewis has never cut a roster before as a head coach. For another, there are a spate of injuries that make the roster picture cloudier than the month of February.
Maybe some players who were headed to the exits must stay because of depth reasons to compensate for injured players. Or maybe the club has to wait-and-see on the extent of injuries.
Whatever happens, Monday promises to be busier than Sunday because Lewis all about vowed the Bengals are going to live on the waiver wire.
"We're going to make sure we have the right 53," Lewis said after Friday's 21-20 loss to the Colts. "At this point, the 53 we start with might not be the 53 we end with. I think we're going to have to have that kind of perpetual roster because we have guys (not getting it done). We can't accept mediocrity. We're falling back into those bad habits. We have to nip it in the bud and move forward.
They already seem to have wheels in motion. ESPN.com reported they called the Redskins about the status of backup running back Kenny Watson last week, and with Watson expected to get cut despite a
solid 4.6 yard average on his 116 carries as a rookie last season, he could be headed here Monday since the Bengals are first in the claiming order.
There were several of their own guys perceived to be on the bubble that they wanted to get longer looks at in Indianapolis Friday night and couldn't evaluate them because they didn't play.
Wilson (hamstring), middle linebacker Armegis Spearman (hamstring), Foley (bruised lower back) could fall into that category. And maybe wide receiver Danny Farmer (bruised knee), too, after rookie Lawrence Hamilton flashed for 121 yards on just four catches Friday night.
Wilson, a rush defensive end taken in the first round in 1997, is always a leading candidate to be the surprise of Cutdown Day. A year removed from his team-leading nine sacks, he still appears to be because he's getting heavy heat from seventh-round pick Elton Patterson (four tackles and a forced fumble Friday), plus new pickup Greg Scott has Lewis ties.
Thompson, a free safety taken in the second round in 2002, looks to be in a last-spot tussle with rookie free-agent cornerback Terrell Roberts in the secondary. The Bengals vowed to play the heck out of Roberts on special teams, and they did, and he responded with a solid effort that could help him become the first rookie free-agent defensive back to make the Opening Day roster since cornerback Rodney Heath in 1999. He made one tackle on the punt team for a loss against the Colts.
Brewer, a third-round pick in 2001, caught two balls for 16 yards at tight end. But with Matt Schobel grabbing four for 48 yards, it still looks like Brewer is a longshot, unless they go with four tight ends and lighter at some other position.
Spearman, a backup middle linebacker who was a college free agent in 2000, made the "Football News" All-Rookie team, and the Bengals matched Green Bay's offer sheet to him this past April as a restricted free agent. But guys like Riall Johnson and Dwayne Levels have played pretty well on special teams to get noticed. On Friday, Levels added three tackles from scrimmage. Who knows where that scrum is?
Foley, a third-round pick from 1998, began training camp as a starter at left outside linebacker before getting usurped by Adrian Ross. He had picked up some momentum with a good game last week against Tennessee, but where he stands now is anyone's guess.
The big question is if Hamilton, a rookie free agent from Stephen F. Austin, is just too raw to make it over a veteran like Farmer that has made a lot of huge catches for this team since he arrived in 2000.
It would probably be a surprise if Travis Dorsch beat out incumbent Nick Harris at punter, although it looks to be a pretty tight race. The Bengals have always liked Harris' consistency, and he lobbed his first punt Friday inside the Colts 10 before skying his second one long enough for Roberts to ring up his tackle for a loss.
Now, Harris might not be the holder if he goes back to work Monday, but that's another story. The conventional wisdom seems to be that Dorsch didn't knock out the champion.
But then again, Lewis may have a sneak punch when he steps to the microphone Sunday.